Azteci and Azurai
Elves of the Azulan
The Azteci and Azurai Elves are descended from the oldest race of the world, the Azlanti. The Azlanti are an enigma, even to scholars and those who study ancient civilizations. What is known of that ancient race is speculation and tales passed down orally through the many hundreds of generations. The Azlanti built great cities and had a fantastic civilization, and many such ruins survive deep in the Azulan Jungles. Such are the dangers of the jungle, however, that few who dare brave its expanse ever return to tell the story of the Azlanti. Some of these cities, however, are not lost in ruin, for they have been rebuilt by the current Azlanti Aztecs.
The civilized world does not make a distinction between the two types of southern elves, and usually calls them Southern Elves, or Azurai – out of ignorance.
There are now, in fact, two distinct factions among the modern Azlanti. Some of their number chose to build great cities and live behind elf-made structures. These civilized elves of the Azulan tried to emulate the ancients in all ways, and adopted the ideals of and gods they believed the Azlanti revered. They believed these gods to be called Aztecs, and adopted the name of their ancient gods, now calling themselves the Azteci. They continue to worship these Aztec gods to this day. The Aztec pantheon are, in many ways, aspects of the same gods worshipped by of the great church, and thus – distorted as it may be – the civilized Aztecs are granted the five gifts of the Maker (in this case, the maker is the god Quetazlqatl, the primordial god of creations, giver of life.
The Azteci are an inventive and productive people, and although not disdainful of their jungle home, they prefer to inhabit the sturdy stone structures of their ancestors. They build and rebuild stone foundations, and use the stone for walls and fortifications against the outside world. Within their protective walls, they typically reside in sturdy structures made of wood, mud, clay and brick and loam. Roofs are constructed of wood, clay tiles, or reeds. Culturally, the Azteci have placed a greater emphasis on form, with less on substance, than their jungle neighbors, the Azurai. Azteci architecture tends to be grandiose, the colors of its artwork bright. The classic example, of course, was the Great Pyramid of Nexalti, destroyed on the Night of Sorrows. Towering toward the heavens, its gaudy mosaics and sweeping height stood as an obvious attempt to overcome the structure’s environment, not merge with it.
Over the generations, many Azteci city-states have emerged, each either trading with, or warring amongst each other. Always built upon Azlanti ruins, these cities thrive independently from one another. There are also greater threats from the jungles than other Azteci. Dangerous jungle denizens threaten everyday life, all part of the nature of life’s circle. Also, war against the other races of the continent, the colosi (giants and ogres) of the great Byrundi Empire, the Vortoi (jungle dwarves) of Mannanizan, the Myorai (cat-folk) of Myo, the Chuulish human tribes and the Therathi (Lizardfolk) of Lyzi, all pose great a great threat to the Azteci elves. Additionally, with the colonization of the Crimson Seas and the expansion of the Northern Civilizations, the Azteci have a long-standing tradition of warrior training, and the development of strong armies. Warrior training begins at a very young age for boys, with a rigorous regimen of study and exercise. It is not uncommon for a youth, by the time of his sixteenth birthday, to have attained the skills of a ranked warrior.
The education of all crafts, including the arts are extremely important to the Azteci. It seems this is a connected to their religion; arts and crafts are worthy pursuits to the gods. Song and poetry are highly regarded; there are presentations and poetry contests at most of the Azteci festivals. There are also dramatic presentations that include players, musicians and acrobats.
Athleticism is also highly regarded, and the Azteci hold many contests and games, including the pervasive ball game.
There are distinct classes amongst the Azteci. First are the equivalent of nobles. This status is not hereditary, but garnered through exemplary action (such as sacrificing a gift), choice of profession (mainly military), talent and skill. These nobles are chosen following tradition, by the existing members of this class. In Azteci societies, a high status is awarded to the members of the military orders, especially the Falcon and Jaguar Knights.
The other portion of the free society are much like peasants. 20% of this population is dedicated to agriculture and food production. The other 80% of society are warriors, artisans and traders. Most of the peasantry are also dedicated to arts and crafts. These works are an important source of income for their city.
Finally, there are the slaves held by the Azteci. While it is not permitted to enslave an Azteci, even for crimes (banishment is the usual punishment for severe crimes against society), slavery in the society is commonplace. Such races as those taken prisoners in battle, or even the capture of wildling Azurai elves, are typical slaves. Such slaves are usually used for manual labor, but are typically treated fairly, and even given an education (albeit a poorer education than even the peasantry is afforded).
Some prisoners of war are not so fortunate. It is part of the religious practice of the Azteci to sacrifice non-believers to their gods. These sacrifices are done on holy occasions, based on the celestial heavens and the Azteci calendar. As nonbelievers are not privileged with the Maker’s gifts, it is not forbidden to sacrifice them. If for some reason, the sacrificed creature is brought back to life, either by the Ceremony of Life, or a more powerful magic, the resurrected being is given a special, honorable place among the nobles as recompense for the destruction of one of their gifts.
It is also not uncommon, on very special occasions, and for unique rituals honoring the gods, for a Gifted individual to allow themselves to become sacrificed. These sacrificial victims must have at least two remaining gifts, and the Ceremony of Life is performed the morning immediately following the sacrificial rite, raising them. It is considered a great honor to be sacrificed in this way, and to give freely one’s gift in such a noble manner. Once raised, this individual will also be granted noble status and given a high place of honor in society.
The Azteci tend to be taller in stature than the Azurai, with longer, leaner physiques. Their faces are more angular in appearance and unlike the Azurai, even the adult males are beardless (in part by custom, and in part by heredity).
The second faction of these elves stayed true to nature and the wild ways, separated from their kin, and lived in the wild. According to song and legend, during the Age of Darkness, a wild elf known as Zaromos, who was a wayfinder and nominal leader of the wild elves, led his people away from the cities of the ancients, and chose to truly separate the wild elves from the civilized elves. At this time, the wild elves begin to wear tribal tattoos and renamed themselves as the Azurai.
For generations, the wild Azurai dwelt almost solely in the jungles and forests of Azulan. The Azurai were also enslaved by their own race, many of them were forced to work in servitude to the civilized Azteci people in the elven cities. The view of the “Azteci” was that they were educating their barbaric cousins. The Azurai were split between those forced to work in elven cities, and those who remained free and in the wild.
The Azurai elves now dwell in the various forested and jungle covered realms across the southern continent, living in harmony with nature and animals and protecting the woodlands across the continent, although the majority of them still remain in the Jungles of Azulan. Throughout generations of living in the most hostile territory in the world, facing all the enemies at war with the Azteci, as well as being enslaved by their own people and hunted by “civilized” explorers, the Azurai have remained a strong and unbroken people, a race who rise in the face of adversity.
The average Azurai elf stands at just under five feet tall and weighs between ninety and a hundred pounds. Due to their outdoor lifestyle, Azurai elves have tanned skin (some with a greenish tint), and are lean and muscular. Their hair color ranges between light brown to black and they normally have hazel eyes. On very rare occasions, an Azurai elf has been born with silvery-white hair, which is sometimes a throwback to an earlier ancestor. Azurai elves are considered beautiful by most non-elven races, but are viewed as wild barbarians and at best exotic creatures by their own cousins. Azurai commonly are dressed in leather clothing that has a heavy fringe with feathers and silver jewelry, which they believe deters evil spirits away from them.
The wild elves are suspicious of most outsiders, having been enslaved by their own cousins, attacked by Ogres and Lizardmen, hunted by Humans, and having their trees cut down by Dwarves over the course of history. They are peerless hunters and silent in the woods, as well as amongst the most skilled fighters of elvenkind. All Azurai have an innate knowledge of nature and the forest, and are normally akin with animals and in the wild and almost lost in a city, until given enough time to adapt. They normally worship the gods of either light or neutrality, but even show a healthy respect for the gods of darkness. However any Azurai who was known to worship a dark god, was exiled, and decreed as a dark elf and not welcome in elven lands.
The Azurai elves generally live under a tribal system, where each tribe is centered on a chief and his family. Azurai tribes either live wild in a forest, or sometimes in portable structures. They do not build permanent structures, as it does not allow them to roam free. The Azurai have a strong sense of history and the past, and relate all their tales verbally. The creation tales of the elves has altered over time due to the verbal retelling from generation to generation, however it is the role of the wayfinder and the shamans of the Azurai to remember all the stories of their people.
Azurai are generally illiterate, although are certainly capable of learning to read and write.